Stanley Smith’s side of the Airport story

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The former CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) has broken his silence about the circumstances that led to his sudden departure from the post last Friday.

Stanley Smith, a Jamaican, had been at the helm of ABAA for the past seven years, having been recruited for the job in 2012 under the previous United Progressive Party (UPP) administration.

Many saw it as a mark of confidence in his competence and a confirmation that his appointment had been devoid of politics when the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) administration retained him in the position for another five years after at it swept back to office in June 2014.

It all came to an end on Friday 10th May when Smith and ABAA’s human resource manager, Forsianne Parillon-Joseph, were handed suspension letters for hotly disputed reasons.

This immediately sparked a work stoppage by scores of Airport Authority employees, incensed at what they considered to be injustice being meted out from higher up against the two senior executives.

The workers mounted a protest demonstration outside the old terminal building of the V.C. Bird International Airport while Smith and Joseph were engaged in closed door meetings with Aviation Minister Robin Yearwood, Permanent Secretary Edson Joseph, and representatives of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union, bargaining agent for ABAA workers.

But if the workers intention was to force a rescinding of his suspension, Smith never allowed it to reach that point and chose instead to resign – reportedly because he refused to accept the terms of his suspension. The news was broken to the stunned workers who had rallied to support him by Yearwood, Joseph and the ABWU’s deputy general secretary Chester Hughes, who then instructed the striking staff to return to work – which they did.

It was then announced that the now-resigned Smith was the subject of an investigation – the purpose and other details of which were not provided. But in an exclusive interview with OBSERVER on Monday afternoon, the former Airport Authority CEO had much to say about his untimely departure from a job in which there was still a couple years left on his last contract renewal.

Smith described his personal turmoil since the events of last Friday, when he was summoned by the Authority’s Board of Directors and suspended for one month pending an investigation.

The leak of a report on salary recommendations is at the center of the controversy, and the Board has accused the former CEO of sharing the confidential document.

However, Smith and the industrial relations consultant assisting him with the matter, Anderson Carty, told us the report was, in fact, not confidential and that the representative union, the ABWU, was entitled to have a copy.

Additionally, they said, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Edson Joseph, authorized the report’s distribution some three weeks ago to quell industrial action then by workers.

In light of this, Smith says he cannot fathom the reason for his suspension on the basis given out to the public. Smith also refutes another story circulating in the public domain that he was responsible for sabotaging a loan for airport improvements.

He and Carty speculate that there may be much more to the story. With his reputation on the line and his ability to secure future employment threatened, Stanley Smith felt the need to speak out.

The details of what he revealed to us will be in tomorrow’s issue of The Daily OBSERVER.

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